On April 19th, I watched the “13th All Japan Invitational 8-dan Kendo Championships”. This event is held once a year at the Nakamura Sorts Center in Nagoya. As the title of the tournament suggests, the participants are selected among 8dan holders. The players have to be younger than 65 years and hold their 8dan for at least 5 years (obviously,  this means that the 8dan had to be obtained at less than 60 years). Currently, about 100 kenshi fall under these criteria and among them, 32 were selected to participate in the tournament. An important point for the selection seems to be “maturity in spirit and technique” (心技ともに円熟). Among the players, two represented Ibaraki prefecture. Living in Ibaraki and having had opportunity to have keiko with both of them, I was very happy to watch them fight at the tournament.

Just before the opening ceremony, I happened to be in the 1st floor and I saw the participants passing by to enter the dojo. They walked slowly, with straight posture and looked very serious, yet relaxed. Their calm composure was intimidating, and I overheard someone else whisper “like samurai”. I certainly cannot know how a samurai would have looked like, but their appearance was daunting.

After the opening ceremony, the matches began. Some where very long, with points scored only after several minutes of overtime (encho). Others were shorter, but it was still rare that a match was decided by two points. All matches had in common that it was beautiful kendo. I felt this is the kendo we should all strive for, straight posture, seme, strong zanshin, sharp strikes. I am well aware that I will never reach this level of kendo, but it is good to keep the example as high as possible.

After the tournament, I had the impression that my kendo had changed. Instead of attacking to much and too early, I tried to be more patient (がまんする) and to resist the pressure (from the opponent) and urge (from me) to attack. I cannot say if this is thanks to watching the matches or the result of practice (sometimes is just “klicks”). But nevertheless, if you have the opportunity to watch the 8dan taikai, I would recommend going and enjoy beautiful kendo.

I do not remember every match, but I recollect some details:

– this year marked the first participation of Miyazaki Masahiro-sensei. Someone told me that he is the “best player in the Heisei era”. He won the All Japan Championships 6 times!

– The final champion, Furukawa Kazuo-sensei from Hokkaido, scored two points in all his matches. As I mentioned earlier, many matches were decided by enchou, so I found it remarkable that he could score two points every time.

Here is some further reading/watching:

  • Results of the tournament on the page of the International Kendo Federation (link).
  • Results on Kendo World (link)
  • Announcement and results on the webpage of the Japanese Kendo Federation (link) – Japanese
  • Announcement on Kendo World (link)
  • Search result for the videos of the matches on youtube, posted by the Japan Kendo Federation (link)

Here are some pictures I took during the event. Unfortunately, it was not easy taking good pictures from the 2nd floor of the arena, and to catch the strikes on action.

The opening ceremony
Nihon kendo kata
Match Koda sensei (white) vs. Miyazaki sensei (red).
The results table.

Have you watched a 8dan tournament before? What was your impression? Can you improve your kendo by watching sensei or skilled tournament players?